Posts tagged with "White House"

‘We’ll put them down very quickly’: Trump threatens to quash election night protests

September 14, 2020

President Donald Trump threatened Thursday to “put … down very quickly” riots on election night, should aggrieved Democrats take to the streets in the wake of his potential victory, Politico reports.

The remarks from the president came in an interview with Fox News host Jeanine Pirro that is set to air Saturday, in which he was asked how he would respond to incidents of rioting should he be declared the winner on November 3.

“We’ll put them down very quickly if they do that. We have the right to do that. We have the power to do that, if we want,” Trump said.

“Look, it’s called insurrection,” he added. “We just send in, and we do it very easy. I mean, it’s very easy. I’d rather not do that because there’s no reason for it, but if we had to, we’d do that and put it down within minutes.”

Trump drew bipartisan criticism in June after police officers and National Guard troops fired rubber bullets and deployed flash-bang grenades to force largely peaceful Black Lives Matter protesters from Lafayette Square outside the White House.

The incursion against protesters by U.S. law enforcement officials allowed the president, top White House aides, and senior administration officials including Attorney General William Barr, to walk across the street to the historic St. John’s Episcopal Church — where Trump posed with an upside down Bible for a political photo opportunity.

Just a few weeks later, in July, Trump deployed an ambiguous mix of militarized officers from the Department of Homeland Security to Portland, Oregon, where they were captured on video using apparently unnecessary force against a Navy veteran and loading BLM protesters into unmarked cars.

At the same time, Biden has forcefully condemned all violence in American cities. However, Trump has been reluctant to speak out against violence perpetrated by his supporters in the form of counterprotests.

It is unclear whether there will be rioting on election night or if the White House race will even be called in the hours after the polls close, due to the significant expansion of mail-in voting amid the coronavirus pandemic, Politico says.

Trump has expressed vocal opposition to voting by mail, asserting without evidence that the virtual ballot-casting practice would result in widespread voter fraud and yield unfavorable electoral results for Republicans.

In august, Trump threatened that he would order law enforcement officials to polling places in an effort to deter illegal activity on Election Day, although it is unclear what authority he has to issue such a directive.

“We’re going to have everything,” Trump told Fox News host Sean Hannity. “We’re going to have sheriffs, and we’re going to have law enforcement, and we’re going to have, hopefully, U.S. attorneys, and we’re going to have everybody and attorneys general.”

White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows insisted at that juncture that Trump was not advocating a form of voter suppression, and Attorney General William Barr argued that sending federal agents to voting sites would be legal if they were responding to a “particular criminal threat” or “specific investigative danger.”

Research contact: @politico

Steve Bannon charged with defrauding donors of ‘We Build the Wall’ campaign

August 21, 2020

Steve Bannon—the architect of the Trump campaign’s 2016 win and #45’s former chief strategist in the White House—has been arrested along with three others and charged with defrauding hundreds of thousands of donors who contributed to a fundraising campaign for a private border wall, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York announced on August 20, according to a report by The Hill.

Bannon, Brian Kolfage, Andrew Badolato and Timothy Shea allegedly defrauded donors to the online crowdfunding campaign known as We Build the Wall, which raised more than $25 million. The four defendants were expected to appear in court Thursday afternoon.

Bannon is just the latest member of the president’s inner circle to face criminal charges:

  • Former national security adviser Michael Flynn pleaded guilty in 2017 to lying to the FBI about his communications with a Russian diplomat. He has since backed out of a plea agreement, and the Department of Justice (DOJ) is seeking to withdraw its case against him.
  • Paul Manafort, Trump’s former campaign chairman, is serving more than seven years in prison on an array of bank and tax fraud charges.
  • And Trump commuted the three-year-and-four-months prison sentence of his former adviser Roger Stonein July, just days before Stone was scheduled to report to a federal corrections facility.

In a formal press release from the SDNY, Acting U.S. Attorney Audrey Strauss said: “[Starting in approximately December 2018] …as alleged, the defendants defrauded hundreds of thousands of donors, capitalizing on their interest in funding a border wall to raise millions of dollars, under the false pretense that all of that money would be spent on construction. 

She added, “While repeatedly assuring donors that Brian Kolfage, the founder and public face of We Build the Wall, would not be paid a cent, the defendants secretly schemed to pass hundreds of thousands of dollars to Kolfage, which he used to fund his lavish lifestyle.  We thank the USPIS for their partnership in investigating this case, and we remain dedicated to rooting out and prosecuting fraud wherever we find it.”

According to The Hill’s report, the four men are facing charges including one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering. Each charge carries a maximum prison sentence of 20 years.

The indictment suggests that federal prosecutors in New York were investigating the organization as early as last October, while Geoffrey Berman was the office’s U.S. attorney. The Trump administration forced Berman out of his position in June in a high-profile spat during which the prosecutor initially refused to resign.

When asked for comment by a pool reporter on Thursday, a White House spokesperson said, “I refer you to DOJ; this is not a White House matter.”

We Build the Wall did not immediately respond to a message from The Hill seeking comment.

Kolfage launched We Build the Wall on GoFundMe in late 2018—quickly raising more than $20 million, before the site threatened to remove his page unless he identified a valid recipient of the funds.

Based on the indictment, Kolfage, Bannon and Badolato then formed a nonprofit called “We Build the Wall, Inc.” to receive the GoFundMe money.

Despite Kolfage’s promises that he wouldn’t be taking a salary, federal prosecutors alleged that the group of defendants schemed to pass along hundreds of thousands of dollars to him to help “fund his lavish lifestyle.”

Kolfage allegedly took a total of $350,000 from the organization, passed through a series of bank accounts, nonprofits and bank accounts between January and October of 2019.

One nonprofit controlled by Bannon received more than a million dollars,  The Hill says—some of which he passed on to Kolfage, while taking a “substantial portion” for personal gain.

In October, prosecutors allege, the defendants realized they might be under criminal investigation, halted their secret payment scheme and amended the organization’s website to note that Kolfage would be paid a salary beginning this January.

Research contact: @thehill

White House denies that Stephen Miller’s 97-year-old grandma has died of coronavirus

July 27, 2020

The Trump Administration on July 23 discredited news that White House Senior Adviser Stephen Miller’s 97-year-old grandmother had died of the coronavirus—the strong disclaimer coming after his uncle reported her passing due to COVID-19 on July 4.

Mother Jones first reported on Thursday that Miller’s uncle David Glosser was “angry and outraged” at President Donald Trump’s “lack of response” to the crisis, which has left more than 140,000 people dead in the United States and has infected more than 4 million.

“This morning my mother, Ruth Glosser, died of the late effects of COVID-19 like so many thousands of other people; both young and old,” Glosser wrote on Facebook on July 4. “She survived the acute infection but was left with lung and neurological damage that destroyed her will to eat and her ability to breathe well enough to sustain arousal and consciousness.”

But when asked about Glosser’s death, the White House told Mother Jones that the link to the coronavirus was incorrect.

“This is categorically false and a disgusting use of so-called journalism when the family deserves privacy to mourn the loss of a loved one,” the White House told the magazine.

Rather, the White House prevaricated, “His grandmother did not pass away from COVID. She was diagnosed with COVID in March and passed away in July, so that timeline does not add up at all. His grandmother died peacefully in her sleep from old age.”

Mother Jones obtained a copy of the death certificate, which lists “respiratory arrest” linked to COVID-19 as the cause of death. When the news outlet asked about the document, the White House said it was “categorically false.”

“She had a mile [sic] case of COVID-19 in March,” a spokesperson responded. “She was never hospitalized and made a full and quick recovery.”

However, Glosser directly denied the Trump administration’s claim that his mother didn’t die of COVID-19 complications, saying the White House had attempted to conceal the underlying cause of her death.

“Keeping the tragic facts about COVID deaths of our countrymen and women, young and old, from the American public serves no purpose other than to obscure the need for a coherent national, scientifically based, public health response to save others from this disease,” he told Mother Jones.

Research contact: @MotherJones

An open or shut case: CDC refuses to revise school reopening guidelines

July 10, 2020

Pandemic experts at the The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) do not agree with President Donald Trump’s “school of thought” on COVID-19. School administrators, teachers, staff, and students also are on the fence.

Indeed, the CDC is refusing to cave under intense pressure from the White House to allow K-12 educational facilities nationwide to reopen quickly and cheaply, without following the agency’s strict guidelines.

During an appearance on ABC-TV’s Good Morning America on Thursday, July 9, CDC Director Robert Redfield asserted that the agency will not revise its guidelines for reopening schools, despite calls from the White House to do so.

Instead, additional reference documents will be provided, Redfield said, noting, “Our guidelines are our guidelines, but we are going to provide additional reference documents to aid basically communities in trying to open K-through-12s. It’s not a revision of the guidelines; it’s just to provide additional information to help schools be able to use the guidance we put forward.”

The comments risk further adding to a sense of confusion about how best to reopen schools as the new academic year approaches amid a surge in confirmed coronavirus cases.

According to a report by CNN, “The president has vehemently called for schools to reopen— one of the keys to restarting the economy and getting the country back to a sense of pre-pandemic normalcy— calling the existing guidelines “very tough and expensive,” and going so far as to threaten to cut off school funding, though the federal government’s ability to do so is limited.”

During a press briefing on July 8, Vice President Mike Pence said the CDC would issue new guidance on reopening schools next week. Both he and Redfield said the agency’s recommendations should not be viewed as a barrier to returning children to classrooms.

In response to comments about the guidelines being too tough or impractical, Redfield said Thursday this depends on how the guidelines are put together.

“Right now, we’re continuing to work with the local jurisdictions to how they want to take the portfolio of guidance that we’ve given to make them practical for their schools to reopen,” he said.

Current CDC guidelines for schools to reopen rely on extensive protocols to keep children safe. They call for desks to be placed six feet apart, when feasible; and for children to face in the same direction on one side of tables, as well as use cloth face coverings.

The CDC suggests the closing of communal areas, such as dining rooms and playgrounds; and the installation of physical barriers like sneeze guards, where necessary. It proposes that staff who are at risk of COVID-19 complications because of health conditions could telework or be assigned other duties while children with medical conditions could learn online.

Given such advice, it was not clear how the CDC guidelines could be eased without raising the risk that the return to school could cause infections. The current guidelines say the highest risk of COVID-19 transmission could come with full-size classes, a lack of social distancing and with children mixing between lessons.

Research contact: @CNN

Report: For three months, White House blocked CDC from briefing Americans on COVID-19

July 6, 2020

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) was denied permission by the White House to brief the public about the coronavirus crisis, a source at the agency told Yahoo News. 

As a result, the CDC found itself unable to do public briefing for three months—from March 9 through June 12—starting not long after a senior official warned in late February that the virus was likely to hit hard nationwide, Business Insider reports.

As the coronavirus swept across America, it was the White House coronavirus task force led by Vice President Mike Pence, and fronted with increasing frequency by President Donald Trump, that took the lead in briefing the public about the crisis.

Earlier in the year the CDC had given frequent briefings on the pandemic. But then it fell abruptly silent.

A CDC spokesperson, speaking anonymously to Yahoo, confirmed that the agency “slowly but surely took a backseat” to the coronavirus task force.

“We continued to ask for approval” from the White House to hold briefings, the CDC spokesperson told Yahoo News. “We were not given approval. Finally, we just stopped asking.” 

In a briefing on February 25, Nancy Messonnier, director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases (NCIRD), had issued a stark warning about the likely impact of the disease.

“It’s not so much a question of if this will happen anymore but rather more a question of exactly when this will happen,” she said.

The message contrasted sharply with Trump’s attempts at the time to downplay the likely impact of the disease, Business Insider said.

The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the report.

A task force member told Yahoo that the CDC was too concerned with its own stature, and an interagency response to the crisis was required. “The CDC feels like they should be in charge of this,” remarked

Research contact: @YahooNews

Trump spin: ‘It’s a great day’ for George Floyd

June 8, 2020

On Friday, June 5, at a press conference in the White House Rose Garden, President Donald Trump proclaimed it a “great day for equality” and a “great day” for George Floyd following a jobs report that showed unemployment falling, except for African Americans, and ten days of unrest sparked by Floyd’s death.

The president delivered lengthy and often rambling remarks in the Rose Garden that were ostensibly meant to highlight a new jobs report that showed unemployment falling after weeks of the country being shuttered by the coronavirus pandemic, The Hill reported.

But Trump veered frequently from topic to topic, at times addressing the nationwide protests spurred by Floyd’s death. Floyd died on May 25 after a Minneapolis police officer kneeled on his neck for nearly nine minutes during an arrest.

“Equal justice under the law must mean every American receives equal treatment in every encounter with law enforcement regardless of race, color, gender or creed,” Trump said. “They have to receive fair treatment from law enforcement.”

“We all saw what happened last week. We can’t let that happen,” he continued, referencing Floyd’s death.

“Hopefully George is looking down right now and saying this is a great thing that’s happening for our country. This is a great day for him, it’s a great day for everybody. This is a great day for everybody. This is a great, great day in terms of equality.”

Protests, including large-scale protests near the White House, continue across the nation. Law enforcement has erected fencing around the White House complex in recent days, and the area is expected to remain closed to the public until June 10, The Hill notes.

Trump, who has called for governors to “dominate” the streets to quell protests related to police brutality and systemic racism, took no questions on Friday in the Rose Garden. When reporters shouted as he signed legislation to inquire what his plan is to address the issues protesters are raising, Trump held a finger to his lips to quiet them.

Trump touted a better-than-expected jobs report, which showed unemployment at 13.3% in May after hitting a post-World War II high of 14.7% the previous month. Economists had predicted the jobless rate in May would rise as high as 19% as many states remained at least partially locked down to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

But for black workers, the unemployment rate was 16.8%, a slight uptick from the 16.7%  unemployment rate in April and the highest in more than a decade, according to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics. The jobless rate for white workers declined to 12.4% last month.

Friday’s Rose Garden event gave Trump an opportunity to focus on the broader jobs report and spin a positive narrative even as the country grapples with the coronavirus pandemic, the protests, and ongoing economic woes, The Hill said.

Trump is not expected to attend one of the memorial services for Floyd in the coming days. Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden may attend one of the events, an attorney for the Floyd family said this week.

Research contact: @thehill

Trump retreats into White House bunker as protests rage

June 2, 2020

Unlike ill-fated presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy—who in 1968 famously took to the Detroit streets to calm mobs after the assassination of Martin Luther King—(or even current Democratic candidate Joe Biden, who took to the streets of Delaware over the weekend); President Donald Trump has retreated from public appearances as “Black Lives Matter” and “I Can’t Breathe” protesters fill the streets of Washington, D.C., and other cities nationwide.

Secret Service agents rushed President Donald Trump to a White House bunker on Friday night, May 29, as hundreds of protesters of all creeds and colors gathered outside the executive mansion—some of them throwing rocks and heaving police barricades, The Washington Post reports.

Trump spent nearly an hour in the bunker, which was designed for use in emergencies such as terrorist attacks, according to a Republican close to the White House who spoke with the news outlet on the condition of anonymity. The account was confirmed by an administration official who also spoke on the condition of anonymity.

According to the Post, “The abrupt decision by the agents underscored the rattled mood inside the White House—where the chants from protesters in Lafayette Park could be heard all weekend; and Secret Service agents and law enforcement officers struggled to contain the crowds.”

Friday’s protests were triggered by the alleged murder of George Floyd, a black man who died after he was pinned at the neck by white Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin.

The demonstrations in Washington turned violent and appeared to catch officers by surprise. Indeed, the news outlet reports, they sparked one of the highest alerts on the White House complex since the September. 11 attacks in 2001.

Ultimately, 50 Secret Service agents were rumored to have been injured during the protests at the White House.

“The White House does not comment on security protocols and decisions,” said White House spokesman Judd Deere. The Secret Service said it does not discuss the means and methods of its protective operations. The president’s move to the bunker was first reported by The New York Times.

The president and his family have been shaken by the size and venom of the crowds, according to the Republican. It was not immediately clear if first lady Melania Trump and the couple’s 14-year-old son, Barron, joined the president in the bunker. Secret Service protocol would have called for all those under the agency’s protection to be in the underground shelter.

Trump did not appear in public on Sunday. Instead, a White House official who was not authorized to discuss the plans ahead of time said Trump was expected in the coming days to speak to the American public.

Research contact: @washingtonpost

In tweets about Minneapolis protesters, Trump is accused of “glorifying violence” against them

June 1, 2020

“When the looting starts, the shooting starts,” President Donald Trump threatened by tweet early on Friday, May 30, as Minneapolis and other urban centers nationwide faced violent protests—touched off by the murder of a black man by a white police officer, who placed his knee on the victim’s neck for more than five minutes, despite hearing his cries of “I can’t breathe.”

That officer and four other backup cops have been fired by the Minneapolis Police Department; however, they have not been arrested and no charges have been filed, while the department and federal authorities investigate the incident.

Trump began tweeting about the unrest in Minneapolis around 1 a.m., as cable news showed the police station— where the four city police officers involved in the death of George Floyd were assigned—Inengulfed in a fire set by protesters a short time earlier, The New York Times reported. Protesters also had begun looting businesses in the area.

By the time the president had posted his string of tweets, Governor Tim Walz of Minnesota already had activated and deployed the National Guard in response to a request from local leaders.

“I can’t stand back & watch this happen to a great American City, Minneapolis,” Trump said on Twitter. “A total lack of leadership. Either the very weak Radical Left Mayor, Jacob Frey, get his act together and bring the City under control, or I will send in the National Guard & get the job done right.”

“These THUGS are dishonoring the memory of George Floyd, and I won’t let that happen,” the president wrote in another tweet, which was flagged by Twitter. “Just spoke to Governor Tim Walz and told him that the Military is with him all the way. Any difficulty and we will assume control but, when the looting starts, the shooting starts. Thank you!”

In saying “when the looting starts, the shooting starts” the president intentionally echoed a phrase coined by a Miami police chief in the 1960s about crackdowns on black neighborhoods during times of unrest.

Twitter officials responded to the threat by appending the tweets with a note saying the posts were “glorifying violence.” The social media site also made it more difficult for readers to see the feed of those comments:  “Mr. Trump’s post can now only be seen after users click a box with a notice saying it violated Twitter’s rules against encouraging violence, but it otherwise remains visible.”

The official White House Twitter account repeated Trump’s comments in a Friday morning tweet, and Twitter appended the same notice to that tweet. The same comments appeared on Mr. Trump’s Facebook account without a cautionary notice.

“We’ve taken action in the interest of preventing others from being inspired to commit violent acts, but have kept the Tweet on Twitter because it is important that the public still be able to see the Tweet given its relevance to ongoing matters of public importance,” Twitter said on its official communications account.

Research contact: @nytimes

N.Y. Governor Cuomo excoriates Congress for politicizing federal funding to hard-hit states

May 29, 2020

After a visit to the White House to discuss New York State-based infrastructure projects that could provide a “bailout with a legacy”—among them, plans for extending the 2nd Avenue Subway in the Big Apple and constructing two new tunnels across the Hudson River to carry Amtrak trains that service the northeast—New York Governor Andrew Cuomo sat down for a briefing at the National Press Club on May 27, delivering a fiery defense of federal funding to states that have been hit hard by the coronavirus.

He excoriated Congressional Republicans for politicizing aid to the states by giving preference to red states over blue. And in doing so, Cuomo specifically directed his message at critics such as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) and Senator Rick Scott (R-Florida), The Washington Post reported.

 “Stop abusing New York. Stop abusing New Jersey,” Cuomo said to lawmakers in Congress, adding, “Stop abusing the states who bore the brunt of the COVID virus through no fault of their own.”

This hyper-partisan Washington environment is toxic for this country,” said the governor, according to a transcript posted by Yahoo. “We have people saying, ‘Well, we don’t want to pass a bill that helps Democratic states. It would be a blue-state bailout.”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell , Republican of Kentucky, said Cuomo, is interested in “Stopping blue state bailouts.”

Senator Rick Scott of Florida (R) has said, according to Cuomo, “We’re supposed to bail them out? That’s not right.”

“This is really an ugly, ugly sentiment,” maintained the New York Governor. “It is an un-American response. We’re still the United States. Those words meant something.”

Cuomo said he isn’t asking the federal government to do his state’s job.

“I understand that states are responsible for the reopening … but, at the same time, the federal government has a role to play and it has to play a part. There cannot be a national recovery if the state and local governments are not funded. That is a fact.”

Washington is now debating a new recovery bill, he said.

“Previous bills have helped large business, small businesses, all kinds of businesses. Hotels. Airlines. That’s great,” maintained Cuomo. But state and local governments fund schools and hospitals, police, fire.

“The COVID states — the states that bore the brunt — they’re one-third of the GDP,” noted the governor. “How can you tell one-third of the country to go to heck and think that you’re going to see an economic rebound?”

“Also, state economies, that’s what the national economy is made of,” he said. “There is no nation without the states. They tend to forget that in this town.”

Scott fired back in a statement, declaring that Congress will not “use a health crisis and taxpayer money to bail out poorly-run states like Governor Cuomo’s New York.”

McConnell’s office pointed to remarks the Senate majority leader made Tuesday, when he said that “there may be some additional assistance” for states in the next round of coronavirus relief legislation “if it’s directly related to COVID-19.”

Cuomo also pushed back on the notion that the coronavirus came to the United States from China, an argument that Trump and GOP lawmakers have increasingly made as the pandemic has swept across the country.

“It didn’t come from China. It came from Europe, and we bore the brunt of it. And now you want to hold that against us because we bore the brunt of a national mistake?” he asked.

Research contact: @washingtonpost

Dr. Fauci re-emerges from media blackout; says we’ll be ‘seeing more’ of him

May 25, 2020

He’s back! After a deafening silence that persisted for more than two weeks, top infectious diseases expert Dr. Anthony Fauci re-emerged on the national stage on Thursday, May 21—appearing on CNN’s coronavirus town hall to mark his first major television interview since May 4.

While Fauci has recently been on a “modified quarantine” due to possible exposure to the White House staffers who have tested positive for COVID-19, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) chief has continued to participate in the White House coronavirus task force and testified before the Senate last week via remote, The Daily Beast reported.

Fauci, who has been targeted by pro-Trump figures after appearing to contradict some of the president’s comments on the virus, has been conspicuously absent from TV as the White House pushes for a robust reopening of the economy, as CNN’s Oliver Darcy reported earlier this week. Other public health experts on the task force, such as Dr. Deborah Birx, also have been been noticeably absent.

CNN anchor Anderson Cooper immediately greeted Dr. Fauci on Thursday night by asking why the American public has heard so little from the task force and medical experts in recent weeks.

“And if they aren’t going to have daily briefings about facts and science, can you or the NIH or can the CDC have their own daily briefings with top scientists? There are a lot of Americans out there who still want to hear from scientists every day,” Cooper added.

“That’s a good point,” Fauci reacted. “I think you’re probably going to be seeing a little bit more of me and my colleagues. There was a period of time, there was a little bit of a lull of our being out there with the press.”

“I believe that’s going to change. We’ve been talking with the communications people and they realize we need to get some of this information out, particularly some of the scientific issues for which I’m predominantly responsible for. So hopefully we’ll be seeing more of us,” he continued.

The Daily Beast noted, Fauci would go on to say that the task force has “changed a bit” and that he’s in a subgroup with other public health leaders “talking about some of the scientific issues.” He further noted that the task force as a whole is more focused on reopening the economy and the economic impact of the pandemic.

Research contact: @thedailybeast